Jazz Blues Jazz Essay

Pages: 4 (1171 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Music

Jazz Blues

Jazz and blues are as much cultural phenomena as musical ones. Even when they are conceived as clearly defined genres, jazz and blues reflect the complexity of American history, African-American history in particular. Jazz and blues are ever-evolving styles, adapting to new instrumentation and innovations in composition. Likewise, the cultures surrounding jazz and blues have also changed since the styles took root in the early 20th century. Jazz and blues are both quintessentially American, but their infectious sounds now permeate music around the world.

Blues traces its roots farther back than jazz, and it may be said that jazz evolved from the blues. The blues most likely "originated on Southern plantations in the 19th Century," when slaves and sharecroppers "sang as they toiled in the cotton and vegetable fields," (Kopp). However, blues borrowed from earlier musical traditions including "African spirituals, African chants, work songs, field hollers, rural fife and drum music, revivalist hymns, and country dance music," (Kopp).

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Until the 1930s or 1940s, the blues remained relatively confined to the Mississippi Delta and surrounding rural regions. Robert Johnson, John Hurt, and Son House were among these seminal Delta blues musicians. The first recordings of blues artists were made during the 1920s and 1930s throughout the south. Many of those recordings were made by African-Americans although some were made by whites. By this time, jazz had migrated to urban areas and to the midwestern United States during the 1920s. The migration of jazz impacted the development of blues into a more unified yet still diverse genre.

TOPIC: Essay on Jazz Blues Jazz and Blues Are as Assignment

Musically the blues gradually became more cohesive, exhibiting characteristic traits such as the twelve-bar structure and blues scales. Instrumentation in the early days of blues sometimes consisted of only a well-honed voice or an out-of-tune guitar. Jug bands can also be considered part of the blues foundation (Kopp). In addition to actual jugs, ordinary everyday appliances like washboards were employed as instruments along with a litany of others like "mandolins, banjos, kazoos, stringed basses, harmonicas, and fiddles," (Kopp). West African folk music and slave spirituals were transformed into a compelling and versatile genre of music.

On the contrary, jazz evolved rapidly in urban areas like New Orleans and incorporated European orchestral instrumentation. For example, ragtime was one of the first expressions of jazz and relied heavily on the piano. Woodwind and horn instruments became part of the jazz tradition early in the 20th century, and jazz ensembles were often as large as orchestras. Jazz also shares tonality in common with European music and is "obviously a hybrid" musical genre. Thus, jazz can be considered music's cultural ambassador.

However, jazz does owe much to African-American roots music. Jazz and blues sometimes fuse together, testifying to the collective history both shared. In jazz, "we also hear ululations, grunts, hums, shouts, and melisma as integral and indispensable parts of the musical meaning of jazz renditions. In rhythm, we hear the influences of African music," (Kirchner 16). At times, blues and jazz are fused. At times, the line between the two is distinct. Avant-garde and improvisational jazz bear almost no resemblance to the blues whatsoever. Regardless of how the two genres are musically manifest, they represent one of the most significant artistic trends in American history.

Jazz evolved out of the same cultural stew that spawned the blues. Issues related to race, class, gender, and power were embedded both into jazz and blues in the early 20th century. Even the act of playing or listening to jazz/blues during the early part of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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